In a small sold-out room tucked into a damp corner of rain-pounded London, a band called Bruxa Maria walked onto the stage and started to scream. They shrieked, they pounded and they tore at the strings of their guitars until it felt as if you were standing in the middle of a mental breakdown. It was a musical panic attack in the key of punk and chaos.
The band feature members of Ghold, Casual Sect and Terminal Cheesecake, and they were the perfect openers of an evening that had everyone primed for emotional turmoil due to the infamous headline act: Lingua Ignota.
Before Lingua Ignota broke the entire room, Grave Lines laid down an offering of honey and spicy riffs to fully season an already vulnerable audience. In the words of an awed onlooker seeing them for the first time: “Holy shit”.
Jake Harding’s flexible voice flickered between utterly gorgeous dulcet cleans into soul-rending shrieks of genuine anguish. His face contorted and bled from violent clashes with his microphone as the set steadily built in intensity. Caveman riffs were provided by a screaming tattooed giant called Oliver Hill, who also plays in Dead Witches. He pummelled the audience whilst bassist Matt pounded a rhythmic assault alongside Julia Owen’s effortless and flawless drumming.
A sound hitch resulted in a partly improvised but captivating acoustic rendition of “Shame/Retreat” that transfixed the audience. A projector drenched the band in hand-drawn art by Bonnie Baker as the set built towards a triumphant finish that had Oliver holding his guitar aloft like a battle axe as he roared at the crowd.
Their most recent offering is a split with Dystopian Future Movies, which features members from Church of the Cosmic Skull. It is well worth listening to for those who love melancholy, sadness and a healthy dose of gigantic riffs.
Very few people left the room when Grave Lines finished playing. People stood waiting, sweating and nervous for what everyone knew would be a deeply unsettling and uncomfortable hour with Kristen Hayter, the mind behind Lingua Ignota.
Her new album “Caligula” was released in July and the cover features her defiantly gazing at her viewer, dripping in gold jewelry with CALIGULA tattooed boldly across her chest. That tattoo and its owner appeared ten minutes before her set began to drape plastic sheets across the stage and its lone keyboard. A chair, fan and laptop also appeared before she spent what felt like a small eternity fiddling with tube lights and long, tangled cables with intent. The room was silent and confused as all watched her methodically work, wandering if this was part of the performance.
She finally strode off stage and left a deathly silent room wondering if she was coming back. Minutes went by, the stage looked like a dimly lit room, or a moon, or some kind of office nightmare. Everything was unclear, no light was on in the venue excepting four small tube lights placed on stage and under mounds of wrinkled plastic.
Lingua Ignota means “unknown language”. Kristen uses her academic background and classical training to completely fuck with the boundaries of music and her audience whilst singing about abuse, trauma, violence, and revenge. Every note is harrowing, hollowing and yet defiant. She has song titles such as “All Bitches Die” and “MAY FAILURE BE YOUR NOOSE”, some of her tracks contain sound bites of women retelling almost being killed by their abusers whilst she sings operatic and powerful harmonies before descending into mad shrieks, ululations and wails of furious despair.
A subwoofer pumped dizzyingly low bass frequencies into the room until she strode out and began to play the delicate introduction of “DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR“. Hayter disappeared behind one of the harshly lit sheets and began to shriek. The outline of her figure distorted and morphed her smallest movements split into multiple shadows.
Her voice shuddered into alien harmonies over the pulsing subwoofer that did not seem to stop pounding the room further and further down into the heart of darkness as frenzy descended on Hayter. She grabbed a light and the lone chair to the side of the stage, draped it over her shoulder and stepped down into the crowd. Like a red sea of awe, the room parted and she drove herself so far into the mass of people that her laptop was nearly pulled off stage by the tangled XLR cables trailing behind her.
She pitched her chair and climbed it, shining like a beacon in the pitch-black room. Faces were illuminated around her like a coldly lit renaissance painting, and each one was lit with emotion. Some wept, some were in awe, others stood with eyes closed. She clambered and climbed, never in the same place for long.
“Who will love you if I don’t, who will fuck you if I won’t”
She climbed a lone amp, looped a light and its cable over the stage-light scaffolding above her and wrapped it around her neck. Photographers leaped forward as she leaned off the amp, the room was devoid of breath. Hayter’s body was slick with sweat, her voice filled with affliction and pain. She leaned further forward, her entire body supported only by one hand gripping the cords around her neck and the tips of her feet as she leaned 45 degrees towards a drop that would have snapped her neck.
Still she sang, she sang as she swung the lights so flippantly the front row had to dodge her. She sang as she curled up into a ball, facing away from the stage like a frightened child. She sang until she simply strode away and left the audience agape two minutes before the track finished and the room was left with nothing but the pounding dread of the bass and the empty pits inside their stomachs. Left with the catharsis of what had just happened and the deep unsettling knowledge that no-one walks through this world unscathed by whatever it is that Lingua Ignota so finely wraps in the mystery of her voice and then inserts into parts of the psyche that most artists are too afraid to pierce.
If pain is an unknown language then Lingua Ignota is the Rosetta Stone, and an entire room of people walked away that night with it carved into their memories with a bloody knife.